“COUNTING THYME,” by Melanie Conklin, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, April 12, 2016, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 10 and up)
When I was 2, my middle brother, who was 4 at the time, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He was what doctors call a brittle diabetic, experiencing numerous problems on a regular basis. I don’t remember a time during my childhood when my brother wasn’t sick. His illness not only shaped his life; it shaped mine, as well. I think that’s why “Counting Thyme,” by Melanie Conklin really stuck with me. At the center of the story is an 11-year-old girl coping with her brother’s illness. But in the case of “Counting Thyme,” the illness is cancer.
Thyme Owens loves her home, but she loves her little brother, Val, even more. So when Val is accepted into a cancer drug trial in New York, Thyme doesn’t complain about moving thousands of miles. Besides, moving to Manhattan is just temporary.
Or maybe not.
Val’s treatment starts to show promise, and their dad accepts a full-time job in the city. The move is starting to look permanent. Thyme is happy her brother is doing well, but she just wants to go home. All Thyme can do is count the minutes, hours and days, and hope time can bring both a miracle for Val and a way back home.
Being a sibling to a sick brother or sister isn’t easy. There’s often a lot of emotional baggage involved with guilt (not being sick, wanting to do something different, frustration, etc.) that goes along with it. “Counting Thyme” does an excellent job of showing this. Author Melanie Conklin does an exceptional job of conveying the challenges a family of a sick child faces, and she does it with the perfect mix of humor and heart.
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